Open to the Public
What to Bring View All
Located in Candler County, near Metter in eastern Georgia, Charles Harrold Preserve protects 73 acres of ecologically significant land. The preserve includes two distinct habitats: a sandhill community and a mixture of flatwoods and alluvial swamp. The sandhills are dominated by wiregrass, scrub oaks, and longleaf pines.
A number of rare and beautiful plants grow among the wiregrass clumps, including the silky camellia and the state-threatened Georgia plume, a deciduous shrub that grows as large as a small tree. Around 50 populations of the plant exist, all of them in Georgia. This preserve’s population was the first protected. A primitive member of the heath family, the species is thought to be about 70 million years old. Its clustered white flowers blossom in June and July, and its foliage turns bright orange-red in the autumn. The plant is unusual in that the majority of individuals are sterile, though it can reproduce asexually from roots.
Many animals inhabit the site. Seven species of fish live in Stockinghead Creek, which runs along the property line, and 37 species of birds have been observed in the preserve. A variety of amphibians and reptiles are also present, including the state-threatened gopher tortoise. A 2006 census of the site found 42 active and 34 inactive gopher tortoise burrows, indicating that around 47 gopher tortoises inhabit the area, an increase from the estimated population of 39 in 2005.
Conservancy staff and volunteers visit the preserve regularly to monitor plant and animal life. Management activities include selectively thinning plants competing for light with the Georgia plume. Seventy-two acres of the land were donated to the Conservancy in 1964, making it the first preserve donated to the Conservancy in Georgia. It is named for Dr. Charles C. Harrold, who bought the land in the 1930s. His widow deeded the land to Ms. C. Lee and Mr. F.R. Dulany in 1958, who then transferred the site to the Conservancy. An additional acre was purchased from a local church in 1986.
Animals At Risk
- Gopher Tortoise
Plants at Risk
- Georgia plume
Ecosystems at Risk
- Longleaf pine-wiregrass woodland
- Small-stream swamp forest
- Walking Trail: 1/4 mile, non-looping trail; moderate difficulty
- Rare Plant Viewing: Georgia Plume grows along the ¼ mile trail; spring and fall wildflowers
- Best Time to see Georgia Plume: May-June (blooms), September (fall color)
- Birding: 37 species of birds observed at the preserve
- Off-Trail Hiking: explore non-trail areas of the preserve, including gopher tortoise sandhill habitat
What to Bring:
- Water, bug spray, sunscreen
- Sturdy hiking shoes, binoculars, camera
- If planning an off-trail hike: bring compass and topographic map
Parking & Trailhead
- Park along the roadside east of Salem Church Cemetery. Walk east down Salem Church Road to the Nature Trail. Look for the preserve sign on the north side of the road marking the beginning of the trail.
- From Atlanta (3.5 hours travel time):
- Travel south on I-75 to Macon, and take exit 165 onto I-16 east.
- Travel east on I-16 104 miles to exit 104, Metter, and turn left or north off the exit towards Metter on SR-23/SR-121.
- Travel about 1.5 miles to downtown Metter. At the first stoplight, turn right or east on SR-46.
- Through the next stoplight, watch for M.L. King Dr. on the left, with a Phillips 66 station as a landmark on the right. Turn left on M.L. King Dr.
- Travel about 2 miles north on M.L. King; after crossing over the Fifteenmile Creek bridge, turn right on Salem Church Rd.
- The preserve begins about 0.5 mile beyond intersection on the left.